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Obes Res. 1995 Nov;3 Suppl 4:471S-476S.

Serotonin, eating behavior, and fat intake.

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  • 1Psychology Department, University of Leeds, UK.


There is an intimate relationship between nutritional intake (eating) and serotonin activity. Experimental manipulations (mainly neuropharmacological) of serotonin influence the pattern of eating behavior, subjective feelings of appetite motivation, and the response to nutritional challenges. Similarly, nutritional manipulations (food restriction, dieting, or altered nutrient supply) change the sensitivity of the serotonin network. Traditionally, serotonin has been linked to the macronutrient carbohydrate via the intermediary step of plasma amino acid ratios. However, it has also been demonstrated that 5-HT drugs will reduce energy intake and reverse body weight gain in rats exposed to weight increasing high fat diets. 5-HT drugs can also reduce food intake and block weight gain of rats on a high fat cafeteria diet. Some diet selection studies in rats indicate that the most prominent reduction of macronutrient intake is for fat. These data indicate that 5-HT activity can bring about a reduction in fat consumption. In turn, different types of dietary fat can alter brain 5-HT activity. In human studies the methodology of food choice experiments has often precluded the detection of an effect of 5-HT manipulation on fat intake. However, there is evidence that in obese and lean subjects some 5-HT drugs can readily reduce the intake of high fat foods. Data also suggest that 5-HT activation can lead to a selective avoidance of fat in the diet. These effects of 5-HT on the intake of dietary fat may involve a pre-absorptive mechanism and there is evidence that 5-HT is linked to cholecystokinin and enterostatin. These proposals have theoretical and practical implications and suggest possible strategies to intensify or advance fat-induced satiety signals.

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